Saturday, November 22, 2008

Before the Dawn Of the Veiled Marauder

Here's a really cool record you never hear about. Before the Dawn Of the Veiled Marauder (a moutful of a title) is a three-song comeback 12" by Professor X dropped in 1999 ...that's after Brother J's Dark Sun Riders material, but long before the X-Clan's first comeback 12" on Up Above Records. This is dope and features some surprisingly big-name guest-stars for a record that virtually went unheard of.

The A-side, "Beware" features none other than George Clinton himself. Considering how the X-Clan really revolutionized using P-funk samples in hip-hop (they weren't the first; but they sure were the best), it's fitting that Professor X finally links up with the man himself here. Clinton's collaboration mostly seems to be in the instrumental here, although that's clearly him speaking the song's intro* and some background ad-libs. But after that, Professor X takes the mic and doesn't give it back. Which is fine, because - while he's still clearly kicking his own, personal semi-spoken word flow flow - I think he's mastered his delivery to stand better on its own than on his previous solo albums.

And despite his high profile guest, X clearly hasn't felt pressured to water down his strong political/controversial messages on this record, as the hook repeatedly tells us, the title "Beware" is telling us to: "beware of those house negroes (he's no player; deceiver, slayer of the sleeper)," meaning black leaders who don't do enough for the black community once they've been elected. The track, produced by X himself, is cool and subtle; it doesn't sound at all like all the other P-funk sampling songs that were coming out around this time. So it's a nice plus that this cut is followed by the instrumental version.

The b-side is then given to two tracks (without instrumentals); the first of which is "Who's Pimpin' Who?" featuring Big Daddy Kane, who also produced the track. The instrumental's ok though not great, but Professor X and kane have some nice verses for the subject of artists being controlled by their label. Here's Kane's verse, impressively combining some slick wordplay and some powerful statements:

"I see a lot of pimpin' goin' on;
Can't slip the slightest.
It ain't about who's right or wrong,
Whose game's the tightest.
That day-by-day stress that we've all been through,
Playin' with your mental;
I see that ho you're turning into.
That fast cash up in your face:
You can't avoid it;
That be the main reason black people be exploited.
What you would call a record label,
I'd call a stable;
You're settling for crumbs off the table.
You're thinking that your three-bedroom house is ill,
While your money bought a mansion for someone on the hill.
And all that talk
That 'white men can't jump' is a scheme;
Why the Hell dem gon' jump when dem own the whole team?
We can't be lettin' all that up-front money amaze.
Take it back to the Berry Gordy Motown days;
Put me in the same room with Michael Jordan,
and Michael Tyson, and Michael Jackson
And watch me mack 'em.
Let's make it happen."

The last song is produced by and features Papa Wu (bear in mind, this was '99 when having anybody "Wu" on your project was a big deal). It's called "Strangers," and it definitely is strange. The production features some familiar samples, which are nice but nothing new; but Papa Wu sounds like he's been spending all his time with The ODB, as he bugs out on the track (it starts out with him laughing and coughing what I have to assume is some weed smoke), presumably freestyling all his rhymes, with X singing the hook, "strangers in the night... exchanging glances." They're clearly having fun, though; and it's a smooth track, so you'll probably get into it - it works as a bonus B-side track.

By the way, I mentioned some unreleased Professor X tracks in a previous post... You can (and should) check out clips of 4 (out of a total 10, apparently) on this myspace page here, a collabo page between Professor X and DJ Mercury. Some nice stuff. Dj Mercury also has his own myspace here.

*By the way, if you were to pitch up the sample on the intro to 45 rpm, you'd recognize it as the introduction to Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock's "IT Takes Two."

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